Rising COVID numbers lead to state of emergency in Iqaluit | Polarjournal
The 7,740 residents of Iqaluit are currently experiencing the same as many places around the world: lockdown and strict hygiene and distance measures to prevent the spread of the virus. At the same time, vaccination continues apace. Image: Aaron Lloyd via Wiki Commons

Since November, the Canadian Arctic region of Nunavut has been battling the virus that still has the entire world in its grip. Initially, the town of Arviat was the centre of the COVID outbreak in Nunavut. With lockdowns and other known measures and a rapid start of the vaccination program, the government tried to get the situation under control. Apparently with success, as by mid-March the numbers had dropped to virtually zero. But the joy was short-lived: the virus has now hit the capital Iqaluit, leading to rapidly increasing numbers of cases. Now the local authorities are pulling the emergency brake.

The city council had declared a state of emergency for Iqaluit as of yesterday after the number of new infections continued to rise and a so-called “community transmission” was also detected in the jail and a hospital. For the next 7 days, the council can “do any act and take any measure the municipal Corporation considers necessary” to prevent the virus from spreading further, the city’s press release says. The Emergency Measures Act gives the authorities wide-ranging scope for action, which need not be fully exploited, at least at the present time. This means that all government offices are closed to the public. Essential services will continue to be performed, but requests will normally only be handled by phone or email. In addition, all recreational facilities, parks and other public spaces will be closed. In addition, there is a strict mask requirement and essential shops remain open. Schools are closed and the administration reminds that gatherings in public spaces are also strictly regulated and to be avoided in private spaces.

With health services limited in Iqaluit, authorities are appealing to people to comply with protection measures. Current figures show that young people in particular are becoming increasingly infected. Image: Government of Iqaluit

The Nunavut Health Authority released the new numbers yesterday, which showed 83 residents in Iqaluit now have COVID-19. Two other cases continued to be listed in Kinngait. The virus is the British variant B.1.1.7, which is considered more contagious and is also circulating widely in Europe, leading to stricter measures. Nunavut’s Premier Joe Savikataaq reminds people in a public release that despite the advent of spring and the events and festivities that come with it, it is imperative that people comply with the containment measures. Above all, wearing masks, keeping a distance of two metres and staying at home whenever possible are required. He also draws attention to the fact that the vaccination programme is ongoing. As of yesterday, 12,568 Nunavut residents were fully vaccinated with Moderna vaccine, he said.

As in Europe, authorities in Iqaluit are seeing higher infection rates, especially among young people. About 20 percent of those infected are under 18 and thus outside the vaccination strategy with the Moderna vaccine. Picture: Michael Wenger

One problem that currently exists with the program is that Moderna’s vaccine is only given to people over the age of 18 in Nunavut. But authorities report that in Iqaluit, one in five infections already affects youths under 18. Health Officer Dr. Michael Pattinson explains that there are now more transmissions within households, according to the Nunatsiaq News newspaper. “Essential workers have inadvertently brought it into the home and it’s involving their children,” he was quoted in the newspaper. He therefore reminded that children should also wear masks and that quarantines also apply to children. To make matters worse, in addition to the outbreak in Iqaluit, a COVID outbreak has also been recorded at a mine on Baffin Island and the virus is also rampant in the Northwest Territories. As a result, the Government of Nunavut has cut off air service to the territory and ordered anyone who entered Nunavut from there to quarantine themselves. The Mary River Mine is also currently a “no-go” zone. There is also a 14-day isolation requirement for anyone who has entered Nunavut from outside the territory.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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